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Alaska governor says free COVID-19 shots for visitors starting in June

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announcing his tourism aid initiative.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announcing his tourism aid initiative.(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 3:22 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - At the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, Gov. Mike Dunleavy unveiled a $150 million tourism aid initiative that would be spent from the latest federal COVID-19 relief package.

The relief would go to tourism and hospitality businesses after Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer travels across Alaska to understand what they need. The governor is also proposing that $325 million be given as relief to other businesses and that $325 million be spent for infrastructure investment.

The Legislature would need to approve the package. Early plans are being drawn up on how to spend the $1 billion from the federal government and some lawmakers have said at least half of it should be kept in reserve for next year.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said the governor’s proposal would be thoroughly vetted and that it would likely be rolled into the operating budget.

“Time is not on our side,” he said, as the Legislature approaches the 121-day constitutional deadline for the session on May 20.

RELATED: Dunleavy shares details on plan aimed to help Alaska’s travel industry ahead of summer months

Dunleavy also announced that there will be free COVID-19 vaccinations available for out-of-state visitors starting on June 1. He said the first of two doses from Pfizer and Moderna will be available at airports in Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks and Ketchikan.

“And we have plenty of vaccine, we do not lack vaccine,” said Heidi Hedberg, Alaska’s director of public health.

She explained that there would be no delineation between Alaskans and tourists when the out-of-state vaccine program begins.

The need for a tourism business relief package, coupled with a nationwide advertising campaign marketing Alaska as a travel destination, comes as local communities face a second straight summer without large cruise ships.

In 2019, around two-thirds of the roughly 2 million tourists visiting Alaska came by cruise ship.

On Friday, the governor again urged for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow cruise ships to start sailing again and threatened to join a Florida lawsuit demanding that.

Canada’s ban is another obstacle. Under maritime law, foreign ships need to stop in a second country when sailing between two U.S. ports.

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